This was first posted on February 9, 2013. Since that time I have continued to blog and stand up for those of us with chemical sensitivities, environmental illness, and chronic illnesses. I have published my book and made a valiant effort to get the word out about environmental illness and what it is like living in isolation and fighting to not only survive but find the courage to move forward and dare to hope that life will get better. Thank you all for sharing with me your stories and listening to mine.
Someone typed this question into a search engine that led them to my blog. How do we live with chemical sensitivity? We have to put one foot in front of the other and trudge through the unknown of what does or does not work for us. We have to live with others (many in the medical profession) not believing that we could be reacting to even trace amounts of a chemical. We have to convince others to avoid chemicals and the wearing of fragrant products (which are loaded with man-made chemicals to produce these fragrances).
How do we live with chemical sensitivity? We become diligent in keeping our environment safe, learn to become an advocate for our own health despite the naysayers, and we learn to deal with isolation. The isolation is many times much harder than trying to convince a doctor that you are not malingering and you truly are reactive. We learn to deal with the “loss of self” that often accompanies the loss of friends who do not care to make themselves safe for you to be around them, the loss of a job as it is difficult to be a productive worker in a work environment full of chemicals, and the loss of our beauty and hair care products.
To live with chemical sensitivity you need to develop a “thick skin”. You need to begin to care more about your health and welfare than you do about what others are or are not saying (You can’t go to the mall shopping with me? Can you at least go to lunch? OR How are you? Is there anything I can do the help? How can I make it so that we can be together?). To live with chemical sensitivity you need to say I am going to fight, I am no longer going to be a victim, I will be a SURVIVOR! To live with chemical sensitivity you need to focus on what you still can do and accomplish and not allow yourself to dwell on what you cannot do or places you cannot go.
I have dealt with all these demons. I have dealt with the loss of friends but relished in those that have stayed around and made the effort to be able to be around me. I have dealt with the loss of a job and sitting at home wondering “who I was” and “what would I ever be able to do again”. I have dealt with the medical community (mostly the workers’ compensation doctors and thankfully not my medical caregivers) not believing my condition and stating that I had a somatoform disorder. I have thrown away clothes and learned to live with those that could easily be washed and dried rather than dry cleaned. I have given up my contact lenses in lieu of glasses because I cannot tolerate the chemicals in the lenses or the solution. I have given up coloring my hair and been forced to allow it to stay gray. I have let myself stay in the victim role far longer than I should have.
Slowly I have thumbed my nose at those demons. In place of a job I now have written a book soon to be published about my life and started writing this blog where I have found so many comforting words and words of encouragement from others in my plight and from those who do not suffer from this affliction. I no longer focus all my attention on “who I was or what I did” and spend more time realizing that I am still the same person but with limitations (maybe a better and more caring person because of these limitations). I have learned that I am okay with my glasses and my casual clothing. I am mostly okay without my make-up and hair coloring. I now say that I am a SURVIVOR! I refuse to allow the victim mentality to swallow me up and make depression my constant companion as it once was, thus allowing me to be the victor not the illness or the depression.
I have sought out therapy, I have surrounded myself with the love of my family and those friends who have hung with me, I have found hair stylists willing to come to me and cut my hair in the backyard or to suit up in tyvek to come into my home and cut my hair, I have started sewing again and doing crafts that once gave me so much joy (using only products that I can tolerate) and I am telling the world what mold, mycotoxins and chemicals can do.
So – How do you deal with chemical sensitivity? You first choose that you are going to take control and do whatever is best for you despite those that are against you. You surround yourself with those that you can count on for love and support. You rebuild your life by doing what you can and not allowing what you can’t to control you. You fight to survive. You fight to find the courage to continue on and you fight for the hope that you will be okay. Then you stare those demons of depression and victimization in the face and tell them NO! NO, I WON’T BE A VICTIM! I AM A SURVIVOR!
For those of you following along or new to this blog: How do you live with chemical sensitivity?